SLAVERY DISCUSSION IN ILLINOIS.
each House of the Assembly, and were now determined to make a vigorous effort to carry their measures at the session of the legislature to be held in 1822-23.
"Governor Coles, in his first message, recommended the emancipation of the French slaves. This served as the spark to kindle into activity all the elements in favor of slavery." *
Henceforth the question assumed an alarming attitude in politics.
The old constitution provided for alterations only in one mode. A vote of two-thirds of the General Assembly could authorize the people to vote for or against a convention, at the next election. If a majority of votes was in favor, the subsequent legislature was required to order an election for members to the convention, and appoint the time of meeting, the apportionment to be in ratio to the members in both Houses of the General Assembly.
At that period, the progress of the population northward, had rendered this apportionment peculiarly unequal, and the strong hold of the advocates of slavery was in the counties near the Ohio river; and in the old French settlements.
It was demonstrated, that on a contingency, one-fourth of the votes of the people could elect a majority in a convention, and that majority might probably be in favor of opening the State for slavery. Hence it became a paramount object of the opponents of the measure, to defeat the convention.
After several efforts, it was found that the constitutional majority in the legislature was lacking by one vote. A contested election, of a perplexing and complicated character, had come from Pike county, then including all the territory north and west of the Illinois river, and, at the early part of the session, was decided in favor of Mr. Hanson; but some members who were opposed to a convention, conscientiously gave their votes for the contestant, Mr. Shaw.
After a stormy session of about ten weeks, the convention party adopted the desperate alternative of a re-consideration, and turned out Hanson, and put in Shaw. This turned the scale, aud the vote recommending the people to vote for or against a convention, was carried. A number of the members of both Houses entered their solemn protest against both the object and the measures to obtain it.
* Ford's History of Illinois.